Meet Steph Jones; she is the author of the popular running blog, Remote Rhode, and does (sometimes crazy) cool things like swim from Alcratraz, packs a single backpack for a wedding in Scotland, and starts marathoning with infamous Marine Marathon. She’s also one of my best friends. We met 3,068 miles from our homes, carrying the same awesome (some people may say ridiculous) green and pink flamingo sheets, conquered creepy hostels, chased old ladies for lapin recipes and have wandered through ten countries together. It made perfect sense to feature her adventures in wandering…of the totally impressive and hardcore running kind.
WANDER WITH: STEPH JONES
So we’ve traveled a lot together (over 10 countries!!). What’s been your favorite place you’ve wandered to?
I’ll start off with a completely shocking answer, I’m sure. My favorite place to wander is absolutely Edinburgh. I love the windy streets and cobblestones. I love the Meadows, Arthur’s Seat, and the views from the Scott Monument. I love the food. I LOVE the Christmas Market. But mostly I love that even though wandering around Edinburgh is a total nostalgia fest, there are always so many new things to discover scattered throughout the city. My most recent favorites include the craft market in the Tron church and the Bearded Baker shop in New Town.
If you had to settle down in one location forever, where would you choose and why?
So, on the one hand, New England suits me really well – it has the ocean, four distinct seasons, and most of my friends/family. But on the other hand, that’s a bit of a practical/boring answer, so I’m going to rule out current location as a possible answer here. So with that said: Dublin, because it satisfies many of the major requirements for my happy places, namely: Easy access to mountains (Wicklow), ocean (the Forty Foot!), cobblestones, good music, green spaces, caramel shortbread, and no snakes.
What’s next on the list?
Oahu, because (you may notice a pattern?): Good hiking, gorgeous tropical water, fresh pineapple, palm trees…and no snakes.
What won’t you travel without? Any travel must-haves?
A camera! Honestly, I think that’s the only thing I’ve consistently brought with me on my past few trips. That and maybe a pair of running shoes. I’ve come around to the idea of sensible footwear, for travel at least, since I always want to cover as much ground as possible. That said, I did recently hike Arthur’s Seat in flip flops so, sensibility is definitely still a bit of a process.
What’s the funniest or weirdest cultural idiosyncrasy you have either witnessed or experienced?
Oh gosh – I think the most striking one was one of those early Scotland weekends when
we found a baby fresher passed out in the alley and tried to figure out what to do with him…only to have every passerby (including people in authority positions) tell us to kick him and get on with it. I was a little surprised at how consistent the response was!
My other one may not be exactly a cultural idiosyncrasy, but in Cuba, I always thought it was funny how anytime my group went out dancing, there was a chorus of “Mira!” from all the men as we tried to dance. As if just watching more carefully was going to help a lifetime of coordination issues! But I guess there are worse things than strangely coordinated, city-wide optimism that improvement is possible.
Which fictional character would you want to eat (or share a meal) with? Why?
First and foremost: Anne Shirley. Anne of Green Gables has been one of my favorite books for most of my life. I just know Anne and I would be kindred spirits. We would wear puffed sleeves and have raspberry cordial with lunch, somewhere outside with lots of scope for the imagination.
I’d also love to eat with any of the characters from the Redwall series, because the descriptions of the feasts are glorious.
On a totally different note, I’d love to sit down and chat (from behind magic proof glass) with someone like Maleficent (the animated one, not the Angelina Jolie one). Talking points would include whether or not she came up with the title “Mistress of All Evil” on her own, why a spindle, and what it’s like occasionally being a dragon.
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
My ideal food day is basically eating Hobbit-style (ie, constantly).
Breakfast: Cereal (Shreddies) with milk/banana, a side of fresh guava, and coffee (iced hazelnut from Grey Dog, or hot pumpkin from Dunks)
Snack: Cherries, green grapes, raspberries
Lunch: Buffalo chicken pizza from West Main (an amazing RI pizza place), caprese salad and possibly a shrimp tempura sushi roll on the side
Tea: Scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream
Dinner: Picadillo with rice, tostones on the side
Dessert: All the ice cream.
And then I would retreat to my bed in a food coma for approximately a month.
Favorite snack and/or drunk food?
POPCORN. Kettle corn, in particular, but I may or may not be eating jalapeno cheddar as I write this.
What are you reading now?
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly. I thought the movie was excellent and I love that the book gives more details about the lives of the women in addition to their careers – their early lives, their paths to NACA/NASA, the ways they stayed engaged in outreach and volunteer work while simultaneously doing the calculations, programming, and engineer work that put men on the moon. The stories are inspiring any way you look at them, but the sheer volume of everything the women in the book accomplished is especially impressive with the additional context provided about how this was all happening during the fight for desegregation and the onset of the Civil Rights movement.
You run a popular running blog. What advise do you recommend for the people who spend a lot of time thinking about running a race but not actually running. (Obviously asking for a friend)
My best advice would be to just sign up! Personally, I think it’s easier to train towards a specific race, than to hold off signing up until you feel fully trained.
If you travel for a race (highly recommend!), stay as close to the start/finish as possible. My first marathon the lines for cabs and public transport out of the finish area were hours long and I was visibly shivering from cold by the time I got out. My second, I stayed under a mile away from the finish. I was still cursing myself when I had to force my legs to continue moving even that short distance after I finished running, but it was still better than standing in a line.
When your “friend” does actually sign up, let me know!
What’s your favorite race? Where/Why?
I have a few!
Favorite Triathlon: Escape from Alcatraz. It’s such a unique race and an iconic swim! San Francisco is a gorgeous location and all the hills keep you working hard for every mile. The volunteers are also amazing – one I spoke with at registration actually recognized me at the finish and made a point of coming over to give me a giant hug. My one caveat about this race is that I did it before the giant price raise of 2016, so as much as I loved the course, I’m not sure how I feel about it in terms of being worth the new entry fee.
Favorite Swim: Charles River One Mile Swim. There’s something so cool about seeing the Boston skyline from the water! And I’m pretty sure singing “I love that dirty water” the whole way home is charming and not at all obnoxious.
Favorite Road Race: Jamestown Jack O’Lantern Jog 5k. I love it because of how small it is (the start line is “the end of the block, past the firehouse”), the number of people who actually show up and run in costume, and the pumpkin prizes at the finish.
Last question: Have you ever started petting a really fluffy dog and just gotten very overwhelmed by how fluffy this dog is?
All the time. I am almost constantly overwhelmed by the fluffiness, goofiness, and general adorableness of dogs.
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